John Lawrence Seigenthaler ( / s i ɡ ən .theta ɔ the ər / ; July 27, 1927 – July 11, 2014) Was an American journalist , writer, and political face . He was known as a prominent defender of First Amendment rights. [1] [2]

Segenthaler joined the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean in 1949, resigning in 1960 to act as Robert F. Kennedy ‘s administrative assistant. He joined the Tennesseanas editor in 1962, publisher in 1973, and chairman in 1982 before retiring as chairman emeritus in 1991. Seigenthaler was also founding editorial director of USA Todayfrom 1982 to 1991. During this period, he served on the board of directors For the American Society of Newspaper Editors , and from 1988 to 1989 was its president.

Early life

Born in Nashville, Tennessee , Seigenthaler was the eldest of eight siblings. He attended Father Ryan High School and served in the US Air Force from 1946-49, achieving the rank of Sergeant. [3] After leaving the service, Seigenthaler was hired at The Tennessean . While working at The Tennessean , Seigenthaler took courses in sociology and literature at Peabody College , now part of Vanderbilt University . He also attended the American Press Institute for Reporters at Columbia University . [4]



Seigenthaler was a reporter in the Tennessean city ​​room [5] after his uncle encouraged an editor about his talent. [4] Seigenthaler Established himself gradually on the staff Among heavy competition included standout That future journalists David Halberstam and Tom Wicker .

He first gained prominence in November 1953 when he tracked down the Thomas C. Buntin and his wife. The bizarre case involved the son of a wealthy Nashville business owner who had disappeared in September 1931, followed six weeks later by the disappearance of his secretary. Seigenthaler was sent to Texas by The Tennessee after reports that Buntin (now known as Thomas D. Palmer) was living somewhere in the Lone Star state. After a series of dead-ends, Seigenthaler struck pay dirt in Orange, Texas, where he saw an elderly man step off a bus. Noting the man’s distinctive left ear, Seigenthaler followed him home. Betty McCuddy, Betty McCuddy, and their six children. [6] Seigenthaler won a National Headliner Award for the story. [5]

October 5, 1954, Seigenthaler once again made national news for his efforts in saving a suicidal man from jumping off the Shelby Street Bridge in Nashville. Gene Bradford Williams was called ” The Tennessean”, whichhe said would be “a reporter and a photographer if you want a story.” After talking to Williams at the bridge for 40 minutes, Seigenthaler watched the man begin to attempt his 100-foot plunge off the bridge railing. Grabbing hold of his collar, Seigenthaler and police saved the man from falling into the Cumberland River . Williams muttered “I’ll never forgive you” to Seigenthaler. [7] On April 29, 2014, The bridge was renamed the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge . [8]

In July 1957, Seigenthaler began a battle to eliminate corruption within the local branch of the Teamsters , noting the criminal backgrounds of key employees, along with the use of intimidation in keeping news of certain union activities quiet. During this period, he contacted Dave Beck and Jimmy Hoffa , both top Teamsters officials, but the two men ignored Seigenthaler’s queries. His series of articles resulted in the impeachment trial of Chattanooga Criminal Court Judge Ralston Schoolfield. [9]

Harvard University’s prestigious Nieman Fellowship program. Seigenthaler took a one-year sabbatical from The Tennessean in 1958 . [4] Upon returning to The Tennessean , Seigenthaler became an assistant city editor and special assignment reporter. [5]


Frustrated by the leadership of Tennessean publisher Silliman Evans, Jr., Seigenthaler resigned in 1960 to serve as an administrative assistant to incoming Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy . On April 21, 1961 Seigenthaler Was the only other witness to face Justice Department has meeting entre Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr .

During the Freedom Rides of 1961, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John Doar [10] to be chief negotiator for the government, in his attempts to work with Alabama Governor John Malcolm Patterson . After several days of refusing to return calls, Patterson finally agreed to protect the Riders, but their state trooper escort disappeared as soon as they arrived in Montgomery on May 20, 1961, leaving them unprotected before the waiting white mob. [11]

Susan Wilbur, [12] a Freedom Rider who was being chased by the angry mob . Seigenthaler shoved her into His car and shouted “Get back! I’m with the Federal government” [13] aim Was hit behind the left ear with a pipe. Knocked unconscious, he was not picked up until police arrived 10 minutes later, with Montgomery Police Commissioner Lester B. Sullivan noting, “We have no intention of standing guard for a bunch of troublemakers coming into our city.” [14] [15]

Tennessean reporter John Nye served as a publisher. A short transition period followed, during which long-time Tennessean reporter John Nye served as publisher. On March 20, 1962, the newspaper made the announcement that Evans’ brother, Amon Carter Evans, would be the new publisher.

One of the new Evans’ first acts would be to bring back Seigenthaler as editor. The two had worked together before at the paper, when Seigenthaler served as an assistant city editor and Evans was an aspiring journalist. On one occasion during that era, the two close to blows over Seigenthaler’s assignment of Evans to a story.

Evans named Seigenthaler editor of The Tennessean on March 21, 1962. [16] With this new team in place, The Tennessean quickly regained its hard-hitting reputation. One example of the paper’s resurgence came after a Democratic primary in August 1962, when the Tennessean found documented evidence of voting fraud based on absentee ballots in the city’s second ward. [9]

Seigenthaler’s friendship with Kennedy became one of the focal points of Jimmy Hoffa’s bid to shift his jury’s tampering trial from Nashville. Citing “one-sided, defamatory” coverage from the newspaper, Hoffa’s lawyers were able to get Hoffa convicted. However, the journalist noted that he had not conveyed those feelings to his reporters. Hoffa’s lawyers gained a minor victory when the trial was moved to Chattanooga in a change of venue , but Hoffa was unconvinced in 1964 after a 45-day trial.

The following year, Seigenthaler led a fight for access to the Tennessee state senate chamber in Nashville after a resolution was revoked the privileges of Tennessean reporter Bill Kovach . The action cam after Kovach had a hearing for a session .

In December 1966, Seigenthaler and Richard Goodwin represented the Kennedy Family when controversy developed about William Manchester ‘s book about the John F. Kennedy Assassination , The Death of a President . Seigenthaler had read an early version of the book, which led to Jacqueline Kennedy’s threatening lawsuit over inaccurate and private statements in the publication.

Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign . During this period, the journalist was described by the New York Times as, “one of a handful of advisers in whom [Kennedy] has absolute confidence.” [17] Moments after a victory in the California primary, Kennedy was shot by an assassin and died on June 6, 1968. Seigenthaler would serve as one of the pallbearers at his funeral, and later co-edited the book An Honorable Profession: A Tribute to Robert F. Kennedy .

Remaining Focused on the question of civil rights, supported Seigenthaler Then Tennessee Bishop Joseph Aloysius Durick in 1969 During the lath’s contentious fight to end segregation , has outraged That stance Many in the community Who Believed still in the concept.

The New Yorker described Seigenthaler as being “well connected in the Democratic Party.” [18] He Was called Expired a “close family friend” of the Kennedys, [19] a “longtime family friend” of the Gores, [20] and a friend of form Democratic Senator James Sasser . [21] In 1976, after having encouraged Gore to consider entering public life, [22] he tipped off Gore that a nearby US House representative was retiring. [23] In 1981, Seigenthaler urged Sen. Sade to return to the Democratic Party’s “liberal tradition”: “I keep telling him that Reagan’s going to make it respectable to be a liberal.

In publishing

On February 8, 1973, Seigenthaler was promoted to publisher of the Tennessean , after Amon Carter Evans was named president of Tennessean Newspaper, Inc.

As the publisher, Seigenthaler worked with Al Gore , then a reporter, on investigative stories about Nashville council corruption in the early 1970s. [25] In February 1976 Seigenthaler contacted Gore at home to tip _him_ Off That He Had Heard That US Representative Joe L. Evins Was retiring, [23] telling Gore “You know what I think.” [18] Seiganthaler previously had been encouraging Gore to consider entering public life. [22] Gore decided to resign from the paper and drop out of Vanderbilt University Law School , beginning his political career by entering the race for Tennessee’s 4th congressional district ,

On May 5, 1976, Seigenthaler dismissed Jacque Srouji, a copy editor at The Tennessean , after finding that she had served as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for much of the previous decade. The controversy came to light after Srouji testified before the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship , which was investigating nuclear safety . Srouji, Who Was writing a book critical of Karen Silkwood , HAD perused more than 1,000 pages of FBI Documents Pertaining to the nuclear power critic. In follow-up testimony, FBI agent Lawrence J. Olson, Sr. acknowledged that the office had a “special relationship” With Srouji. Tennessean reporters had been suspicious of Srouji’s reporting coups, coming just months after she had joined the paper. These included such things as a late-night FBI raid on illegal gambling establishments, as well as a local business suspected of fraud. [26]

Afterwards the FBI appears to be rumors about Seigenthaler. FBI Deputy Assistant Director Homer Boynton told an editor of the New York Times to “look into Seigenthaler,” which he called “not entirely pure.” After hearing this, Seigenthaler tried for a year to get his own FBI file, and finally received some highly expurgated material including these words: “Allegations of Seigenthaler having illicit relations with young girls, which information source obtained from an unnamed source. He had previously promised to publish whatever the FBI gave him, and did so. He flatly stated that the charges were false. The attorney general issued an apology, the allegations were removed from Seigenthaler’s file, and he received the 1976 Sidney Hillman Prize for ”

In May 1982, Seigenthaler was named the first editorial director of USA Today . In announcing the appointment, Gannett president Allen Neuharth said Seigenthaler was “one of the most thoughtful and respected editors in America.” [29] During Seigenthaler’s tenure at USA Today , he frequently commuted between Nashville and Washington to fulfill his duties at both newspapers. [30]

The publication of author Peter Maas’ 1983 book, Mary: A True Story , again put Seigenthaler under scrutiny over the investigation of a pardon scandal involving form Tennessee governor Ray Blanton . Marie Ragghiantiwas the head of the State of the Pardons and Paroles before being released to prisoners who had bribed Blanton’s aides. Since the Tennessean had supported Blanton, the newspaper’s initial reluctance in investigating the charges was called into question. However, Ragghianti’s alleged broken affair with Blanton’s chief counsel, T. Edward Sisk, was the motivation for her claims. [31]

Later life

Seigenthaler discussing media coverage of the Nashville sit-ins at a 2010 panel discussion

In 1986, Middle Tennessee State University established the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies, honoring Seigenthaler’s “lifelong commitment to free expression.” [32]

Fifteen years later, the FBI government decided to make a decision on whether or not to allow the FBI to make a decision on whether or not to allow the FBI Corruption sting. [Edit] References [edit] References [edit] References [edit] Pronunciation Despite the belief, the FBI asked that Thomas’ knowledge of the plan ruined countless hours of investigative work. [33]

Seigenthaler announced his retirement in December 1991 from The Tennessean , just months after he made a similar announcement about his tenure at USA Today . Citation needed ]

On December 15, 1991, Seigenthaler founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University , [34] saying, “It is my hope that this center at Vanderbilt University … will help promote appreciation and understanding for those values ​​so vital in a democratic society . ” The center reserves as a forum for dialog about First Amendment issues, Including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion.

In 1996, Seigenthaler received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award as an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Colby College . Citation needed ]

In 2001, Seigenthaler Was appointed to the National Commission on Federal Election Reform That Followed the 2000 presidential election . He was also a member of the Constitution on Liberty and Security. Citation needed ]

In 2002, When It Was Discovered That USA Today postpone Jack Kelley HAD fabricated Reviews some of His stories, USA Today turned to Seigenthaler, along with veteran editors Bill Hilliard and Bill Kovach , to monitor the investigation. [35]

In 2002, Vanderbilt renamed the 57,000-square-foot (5,300 m²) building that houses the Freedom Forum , the First Amendment Center, and the John Seigenthaler Center. At one point, USA Today and Freedom Forum founder Allen Neuharth called Seigenthaler “the best champion of the First Amendment.” [2]

In April 2014, the Shelby Street Bridge was renamed the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge in his honor. [36]

Seigenthaler hosted a book review program is Nashville public television station WNPT , called Expired A Word on Words , and Chaired the selection committees for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s Profiles in Courage Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial ‘s Robert F. Kennedy Book Award . Citation needed ]

Wikipedia controversy

Main article: Wikipedia Seigenthaler biography incident

In May 2005, a Wikipedia user created a five-sentence article about Seigenthaler that contained false and defamatory content. [37] The false statement in Seigenthaler’s Wikipedia article read:

John Seigenthaler Sr. was the assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy in the early 1960’s. For a brief time, he was thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby. “

Seigenthaler directly contacted Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales . At first, the only thing Wikipedia did not correct the misspelling of the word “early”. As Seigenthaler later wrote, “For four months, Wikipedia depicted me as a suspected assassin before Wales erased it from his website’s history Oct. 5”. The erroneous information was on Wikipedia from May 26 through October 5, 2005. [38] [39]

Seigenthaler reported that the falsehoods that were written about him on Wikipedia were later posted on and He has written an op-ed on the experience for USA in which he wrote, “And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research. hAS enabled Protects Them and Them “, [40] a reference to the protection from liability That internet providers services are Given under federal law versus editorially controlled media like newspapers and television.


Seigenthaler died of complications from colon cancer on July 11, 2014, at the age of 86, surrounded by his family in his home. [3] [41]


  • Seigenthaler, John (2004). James K. Polk: 1845-1849: The American Presidents Series . New York: Times Books. ISBN  0-8050-6942-9 .
  • Seigenthaler, John (1974). The Year of the Scandal Called Watergate . New York: Times Books. ISBN  0-914636-01-4 .
  • Seigenthaler, John (1971). A Search for Justice . Aurora Publishers. ISBN  0-87695-003-9 .


  1. Jump up^ Dalby, Andrew (2009). The World and Wikipedia: How we are editing reality . Somerset: Siduri. p. 60. ISBN  978-0-9562052-0-9 .
  2. ^ Jump up to:b Fliess, Mauritius (October 8, 1999). “Public dangerously unsupportive of free press, Seigenthaler warns” . . Archived from the original on January 3, 2012 . Retrieved May 18, 2006 .
  3. ^ Jump up to:b Schwartz, John (July 11, 2014). “John Seigenthaler, Editor and Help to Politicians, Dies at 86” . The New York Times .
  4. ^ Jump up to:c “Seigenthaler Named Nieman Fellow”. The Tennessean . June 5, 1958.
  5. ^ Jump up to:c Ritter, Frank (December 6, 1991). “A Model and Mentor: Seigenthaler Leaves Mark at Newspapers Nationwide”. The Tennessean .
  6. Jump up^ “Visitors in Limbo” . Time Magazine. December 7, 1953. Archived from the original on January 3, 2012.
  7. Jump up^ “Reporter Balks Man’s Suicide From Bridge”. Los Angeles Times. October 6, 1954. p. 6.
  8. Jump up^ “John Seigenthaler honored with renaming of bridge” . Retrieved 2014-07-12 .
  9. ^ Jump up to:b “The Fighting Tennessean” . Time Magazine. September 14, 1962. Archived from the original on January 3, 2012.
  10. Jump up^ Jimmy Breslin (March 26, 1965). “Changing the South”. New York Herald-Tribune. Reprinted inClayborne Carson; Et al., Eds. (2003). Reporting Civil Rights: American journalism, 1963-1973. Library of America. pp. 361-366 . Retrieved July 20, 2012 .
  11. Jump up^ Gitlin, Todd (1987). The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage . Bantam Books . ISBN  0-553-05233-0 .
  12. Jump up^ “Help Hurt in Riots Returns to Capital”. United Press International. May 22, 1961.
  13. Jump up^ “American Experience: RFK” . Archived from the original on January 3, 2012 . Retrieved November 27, 2006 .
  14. Jump up^ “President’s Representative Hurt Helping a Girl Escape Violence”. Associated Press. May 21, 1961.
  15. Jump up^ Branch, Taylor (1988). Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 . New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 428-452. ISBN  0-671-68742-5 .
  16. Jump up^ “Seigenthaler Editor of Tennessean”. Nashville Banner . March 22, 1962.
  17. Jump up^ Turner, Wallace (May 10, 1968). “New Aides Try to Reverse Decline in Kennedy California Drive”. The New York Times .
  18. ^ Jump up to:b Lemann, Nicholas (July 31, 2000). “Gore Without a Script, What would happen if we saw the man he really is?”. The New Yorker.
  19. Jump up^ Ayres, B. Drummond (April 27, 1984). “A Troubled Kennedy Makes Last Trip Home”. The New York Times .
  20. Jump up^ Turkish, Bill (December 6, 1999). “Al Gore’s Patriotic Chore”. Newsweek.
  21. ^ Jump up to:b Tolchin, Martin (February 1, 1981). “Tennessee Senator Campaigns For 1982”. The New York Times .
  22. ^ Jump up to:b Henneberger, Melinda (August 11, 2000). “The First Race: The Birth of a Candidate: Al Gore Goes Into the Family Business”. The New York Times .
  23. ^ Jump up to:b Maraniss, David (January 4, 1998). “As a Reporter, Gore Found To Reason to Be in Politics, Losing Verdict in ‘Sting’ Trial Motivated Him to Enter Law School”. The Washington Post .
  24. Jump up^ Alter, Jonathan (October 22, 1984). “The Media in the Dock”. Newsweek.
  25. Jump up^ Wood, E. Thomas (January-February 1993). “Al Gore’s Other Big Week” . Columbia Journalism Review . Archived from the original on March 9, 2007 . Retrieved 2006-11-03 .
  26. Jump up^ “A Special Relationship” . Time Magazine. May 24, 1976. Archived from the original on January 3, 2012.
  27. Jump up^ Lewis, Anthony (August 25, 1977). “Not Entirely Pure” . New York Times.
  28. Jump up^ “Letter, The Silkwood Case” . The New York Review of Books. April 29, 1982. Archived from the original on January 3, 2012.
  29. Jump up^ Fontenay, Charles (May 14, 1982). “Publisher Heads Editorial Voice For USA TODAY”. The Tennessean .
  30. Jump up^ “7 Staffers Taking Up Duties at ‘USA Today ‘ “. The Tennessean. September 7, 1982.
  31. Jump up^ Friendly, Jonathan (July 22, 1983). “Debate on Reporting of Nashville Scandal Reopens”. The New York Times.
  32. Jump up^ “Middle Tennessee State University Chairs of Excellence” . Retrieved June 18, 2014 .
  33. Jump up^ Brosnan, James (June 4, 1993). “Tenn. Judge in High-Court Pool Hampered Sting”. The Commercial Appeal. pp. A4.
  34. Jump up^ “John Seigenthaler Biography at First Amendment Center” . Archived from the original on February 8, 2010 . Retrieved May 18, 2006 .
  35. Jump up^ ” ‘ USA Today’ Probe Finds Kelley Faked Stories” . Editor & Publisher . Associated Press . March 19, 2004. Archived from the original on April 4, 2004.
  36. Jump up^ Cass, Michael (April 29, 2014). “John Seigenthaler honored with renaming of bridge” . The Tennessean . Retrieved July 11, 2014.
  37. Jump up^ Page, Susan (December 11, 2005). “Author apologizes for fake Wikipedia biography” . USA Today. Archived from the originalon January 3, 2012.
  38. Jump up^
  39. Jump up^
  40. Jump up^ Seigenthaler, John (November 29, 2005). “A false Wikipedia ‘biography ‘ ” . USA Today. Archived from the original on January 3, 2012.
  41. Jump up^ The Tennessean (July 11, 2014). “Prominent editor, activist John Seigenthaler dies at 86” . USA Today . Retrieved July 11, 2014 .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *